From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has asked the vacation judge of the Federal High Court Abuja, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba to vacate the order of the court that had stopped it from proceeding with the recall processes of Senator Dino Melaye, Kogi West from the National Assembly.
The commission told the court that the interim order stopping the recall process of the senator was made without considering key provisions of the constitution.
Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court had ordered parties in the suit filed by Senator Melaye to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the case.
But the electoral body in two applications did not only apply to vacate the order but also petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) over a breach of its constitutional role .
However, when the matter was called yesterday, INEC counsel, Sulayman Ibrahim informed the vacation judge that the two applications, one seeking the court leave to expeditiously hear Melaye suit and second an application for an order setting aside the ex-parte interim order to maintain status quo made by Justice Tsoho on July 6, 2017 were served on Melaye counsel.
But Senator Melaye’ s lawyer, Mr. Nkem Okoro said he was served with the applications on Tuesday and that he needed seven days to respond.
Consequently, the vacation judge, Justice Dimgba adjourned the matter to Thursday, July 27, 2017 for hearing.
In a 16 paragraphs affidavit in support of the application, the commission said that Melaye suit is predicated on questions bordering on propriety or otherwise of the petition for the recall of the plaintiff (Melaye) received by the commission from the registered voters in Kogi West Senatorial District whose signatures appear in the said petition.
That INEC has just 90 days from the date of the receipt of the petition to conduct a referendum in Kogi West Senatorial District. And that from June 21, 2017, the time allowed the commission by the Constitution of Nigeria to conclude the recall process will elapse on September 18, 2017. That it has issued a time table and schedule of activities for the recall exercise
But that the Court having made the said ex-parte order adjourned the suit “ to the 29th day of September, 2017 for hearing of the plaintiff’s motion on notice and the application for joinder.”
That the commission was not heard before the interim order was made.
That the plaintiff misrepresented and suppressed material facts in misleading the court to grant the ex- parts order.
The commission said that the ex-parte order of interim injunction for the parties to maintain status quo as it stands “on 6th day of July, 2017 is in violation of the right to fair hearing under Section 36 (1) as well as infringement of one of the constitution duties of the defendant/applicant as conferred on it by Sections 1 and 69 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
Beside fair hearing , the commission is arguing that the interim order ought not to have been made considering the nature of the claims sought in the substantive matter vis- a- vis the constitutional duty conferred on the commission to act within statutory time frame.
The section 69 of the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria provide thus: A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives recalled as such a member if; (a)”there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission a petition in that behalf signed by more than half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency their loss of confidence in that member ; and which signatures are duly verified by the Independent Electoral Commission “
(b) “The petition is therefore,in a referendum conduct Independent National Electoral Commission within ninety date of receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency.”
INEC, therefore, pleaded with judge that in view of the forgoing circumstances it is extremely urgent, the matter be heard during vacation.
Melaye had, on June 23, through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) sued INEC, seeking an order restraining the electoral body from conducting any referendum aimed at recalling him.
Melaye in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/587/2017 described the recall petitions as fictitious and urged the court to declare the petitions submitted to the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, as “illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, invalid, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”
He also asked the court to void the recall process on the grounds that it was commenced in breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing.